Yi. Things will never be the same again (and again)!

YBWhen I started to get serious about the Dinosaur Renaissance  many years ago, I never dreamed that it will take me this far. If the speed of change of the image of the Dinosauria has been dazzling… what can I say about this latest paleo-release in the prestigious Nature magazine?

Meet Yi qi.  A fully feathered dinosaur with what appear bat-like or pterosaur-like wings! The fossil is not very clear on the extent of the patagium … in my version here I have adopted a frontal view that jumps the gun regarding what we still don’t know for sure.

As a contrast I’m adding an initial sketch in “classic” mode. At the end I decided that despite being more or less accurate, it tended to look like a gargoyle,,, a chimera, And this is far from being a fantasy animal,,, it is reality preserved in stone! Don’t be fooled by the apparent “fourth finger” It is digits 1, 2, 3 like any dinosaur plus an elongated  wrist bone! According to the authors of the paper Xing Xu et al  “In particular, the rod-like bone of Yi is strikingly similar to the enlarged carpally situated element seen in some petauristines, including the Japanese giant flying squirrel Petaurista leuco-genys


For me it puts the nail once and for on the argument that feathers developed primarily to fly… this is an obvious arboreal animal, but for this dinosaur,  evolution  forgot that it had feathers and developed an extended membrane to create its wings. Just like pterosaurs, bats and flying squirrels, only it is an obvious feathered animal that had long tail feathers like the famous Epidexipteryx. Epidexipteryx in turn may have had patagium too, like possibly Scansioriopteryx and Epidendrosaurus, with their extremely elongated third fingers, but it was not preserved in them!

Remember these illustrations? I may have to change them in view of the current or (perhaps) future  evidence!EpidendrosaurusEpidexipteryx

 How good could it fly is a  bone of contention that will spark no doubt heated debate. Maybe it could only glide from one branch to another  or maybe it managed some sort of battering of the wings… but it is evident that wings it had!

It also demonstrates that for us, 169 million years of evolution from a natural group of animals (some call them a “Class”) is too much to grasp.  The full extent of variety  of animals may lay hidden or might have been lost forever. And the more we know, the more we understand that there might be much more that we actually haven’t discovered yet!

I was requested this image by many people. My version of Yi comes after tracing on the fossil and studying Nature’s paper (graciously provided by no other than Henry Gee himself). Scott Hartman had the good sense of adding some very valuable input, specially regarding the distribution of feathers… was the wing membrane also feathered?  It is far from being definitive and Scott has promised to do a full anatomical review in the near future… in the meantime, I had to do something about  it!


Posted in Dinosaur Renaissance, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Take Flight, Uncategorized, Yi qi | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Importance of Being a Chicken in London.

DSCN0644Deinocheirus, eat your heart out… look at the size of this magnificent work of art! Never a theropod relative have been seen reconstructed so… big! And by children!

Chicken Fest at the City of London Academy (Southwark, Southeast London) was developed as an art project under the direction of Ben Frimet, the creator of the Chicken Sculpture . Chicken Fest  tried to understand and emphasise the place of the ubiquitous and familiar avian within human culture…  Believe it or not, under Ben’s direction kids between 10 and 13 were ultimately the artists responsible for these marvels… from chickens made of plastic cutlery and cardboard to poems and paintings.  We took a trip between fast food and a critical approach to mass slaughter  culminating with that piece de resistance that was that immense, awesome skeleton at the atrium.

Made of papier mache and wood it was one remarkable way to celebrate  the most indispensable dinosaur of them all.

DSCN0647DSCN0648DSCN0655In Ben’s words: “Art teaches students to be curious and look at the world sideways, It also encourages them to become active learners who make a difference by doing. Art can be linked to all subject areas to enrich learning and furthermore, subject areas that collaborate are truer reflections of the way the real world operates”. Couldn’t agree more! 

And yes,,, John Hutchinson and myself were there invited to  show how important the dinosaur link is still in our lives! Chicken fun anybody?

DSCN0654Fast food taken for grantedand the mass slaughter of tasty innocent dinosaurs! The exhibition covered everything and distilled the enormous creative talent of the kids.DSCN0659 DSCN0656DSCN0657

We also had to thank Ben Frimet and the London Academy the opportunity to show our stuff,,, here Carmen and myself are dealing with our stall as usual, prior to the talks…  Carmen was delighted to had several kids from her library coming to say hello!

DSCN0661And needless to say, John Hutchinoson, the Biomechanics “Ace among aces”, the man responsible for ‘slowing’ T. rex (providing evidence, not special effects!) was also there  (with team mates) showing among other things a comprehensive variety of bones and casts  … including a downsized 3D photocopy of a T. rex femur (in red)!

DSCN0662We definitively had a great time, before and after the event… Ben Frimet  and also John are enjoying Dinosaur In Your Face here
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By the time the ceremony and talks started we were ready to emphasize the still not so obvious (for many) notion of chickens as just another dinosaur… Ben opened the proceedings…


 And John Hotchinson continued  with his scientific expertise and naked chickens..,!

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By the time it was my turn I could only take a short trip on how the dinosaur image became more and more chicken- like… despite all the odds, Archeopteryx was recognised as a feathered dinosaur and (size-wise) at last we found a seven-metre feathered  tyrannosaur! Chickens before chickens… we wouldn’t be here cooking the small ones if the big ones hadn’t died out! Needless to say I had to show my “Chicken Run T rex” collaboration with John Hutchinson… it fit perfectly well with the spirit of the event.

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The school rightly awarded Ben Frimet  for his efforts as coordinator and in turn I was allowed the privilege to award each one of the younger artists involved with one print of my artwork. If only in my days at school I ever had a homework like they have had!  I hope their efforts will be rewarded by keeping the artwork and possibly show  it somewhere else… I shuddered at the possibility that (given the fragility of the materials) it might get destroyed… but fortunately that will not happen. I couldn’t think of a better ornament for an atrium… apart from another dinosaur skeleton that is!DSCN0707 DSCN0712 DSCN0713 I’d like to thank once again Dr. Naomi Sykes, Principal Richard Bannister, Rick Benton and Marcus Huntley and all the teachers and staff  of the City of London Academy and specially Ben Frimet  for their hospitality and special care of this event… we felt right at home!DSCN0714

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Glasgow (Part two). Hatching the Past opens to the public!

A virtual tour of the gallery as it stands now… you have to be there to really enjoy it. Awesome!
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Glasgow is getting ready for the event of the year (Part One)…

IMG_4658Breaking the continental barriers, Hatching the Past is arriving to Glasgow! Peter Norton, the man in charge of   Gondwana Studios, one of the finest exhibition organisers in the world,  is currently  mounting the exhibition in a rather spectacular space at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (Argyle Street I Glasgow G3 8AG ,  Phone 0141 276 9599 , Text phone 0141 276 9500/9511 ). You can see from the pictures, some of my own pictures have become indeed massive three-meter tall wall murals! We have to thank toe organisers for  taking so much care of the space for  this exhibition…

IMG_4649Here’s a sneak preview…Can’t wait to see the gallery properly lit when it opens… I have  reservations about some of the graphics shown as ornaments (naked oviraptors anyone?)  but otherwise is as good as it gets… The space is wonderful and it is exactly what is needed for our exhibition.

Hopefully see you there sometime in the future… the best news is that it is going to be in Glasgow until August! and some events may still be in the planning stage!IMG_4651IMG_4642IMG_4654

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Meet the new protagonists…!

Keyy6BThe excitement of  the epic Mike Kelly “Super Predator, the World of T. rex” continues unabated. After finishing the series about Alamosaurus and T. rex, the new chapter I’m illustrating now refers to the possible scenario of  the predator/prey relationship of the famous Mongolian Cousin Tarbosaurus and the monster claws of Deinocheirus (continuing a subject I have been covering before and that is dear to my heart). What you see here is a composition of a juvenile Deinocheirus being finally snatched by an adult tarbosaur… If this is a juvenile you can  imagine the size of    the adults, much bigger and bulkier  than Tarbosaurus itself!  It is interesting to note that for many it is still difficult to visualise the true proportions of this enormous animal as shown by the new discoveries… the  2 meter arms look puny compared to the bulk of the body!

 The series will include also a nesting Deinocheirus herd, but this will belong to the still unfinished last battle scene.

Every scene follows the story line and, in a sense, it is much more satisfying that doing simply a “comic”. I can dwell much more in the detail!


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Celebrating my own Paleoart Education.


From very early in my life,  one of my main interests have always been the popularisation of the accurate (but attractive) image of the Dinosauria. Decades ago I was given a couple of books that, apart from my father’s own art lessons,  were my main paleoart education. In recent times I have had a happy reunion with these popular press books  and have been able again to admire the quality of some of their illustrations.  They are not only affectionate memories. This Giant Funtime Book of Dinosaurs  for example looked positively huge in my tiny hands in those ages…but the awesome (now defunct as genus) ‘Brontosaurus’ (AKA Apatosaurus) occupied two pages, was detachable  and could stand with the aid of its  bases. This little museum piece  is hard to find these days but I owe it to my partner Carmen and an e-bay link found by Mike Fredericks of the essential source Prehistoric Times. Look out for my new interview and feature of new stuff in one of the forthcoming issues


Needless to say we can expect that being the popular press from the Fifties and Sixties,  tails would be on the ground, T rex would have four fingers, the dinosaurs were all either green, grey or brown and the information about prehistoric animals was at best sketchy and far from what we know now… and even more unfortunately: pterosaurs,  mammoths, mastodons and Dimetrodon would inevitably pass as dinosaurs!.

But one thing that is evident and shines through in these  books is that the artists could DRAW. They really understood basic animal anatomy, not  copied blindly other artists, even if sometimes inevitably the influence of Zallinger slips surreptitiously (or blatantly) in. Yes, their animals look natural compared to so many lavish CG atrocities I see in many books and magazines today… the colourful stamps of Matthew Kalmenoff,  and the slick, simple line drawings by Robert Gartland  of the Golden Stamp Book  of Animals of the Past  are a lesson to any paleo artist even today. For me they were the forerunners of the revolution by Zdenek Burian, my all time favourite. These were for children while Burian was for adults… but just as important!

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For paleoart, as for everything else, you need a positive,accurate education. The images you grow up with always  acquire a especial, transcendent  dimension, so I learned it’s important that they have a real artistic quality. Here are two of my own father’s Luis Rey Valderas wash paleoimages from the sixties… volcanoes everywhere! Not too bad isn’t it?


And as times passes by, what you gave to your parents as gifts in the past are back into your hands…the first book I did myself (age twelve) suddenly came back to haunt me. It was a compilation of old images (butchering and gluing all sorts of what passes for memorabilia now, from the Sinclair album to some of the stamps from the Golden Stamp Book) with my own text. It reads so funny today, but was deadly serious then… even in those ages I was obsessed with accuracy and up-to date information, And hey, the cover was mine at least,,, it is a long way off from Extreme Dinosaurs!… here it is at last: my first real dinosaur book cover for “Vida Prehistórica”… a coloured pencil three fingered T. rex? Damn it! What was I thinking?!

Vida Prehistórica

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More Cheap Thrills… this time Therizinosaurus!

I have to admit, I’m puzzled by the Collecta toy models..,. sometimes they are terrible and sometimes that are almost arty! At least they surely have a personality and I see an effort to keep to date with the “New”  Dinosaur Look…And I also have to admit that I really liked this new Therizinosaurus from them. The anatomy is >almost< right (there are some obvious concessions in order to balance the dinosaur on its two feet unaided,  something it manages marvellously). The dramatic pose is so similar to my own approach -fairly well documented in this Blog- that I had to do something with the dull colours they painted it with originally… For fun, I  have painted  it  now with an old pattern of mine.  I like to continue the “tradition” of patterns I created in the past, projecting them into the future… that happened with this also old collaboration with Dorling Kindersley… It was one of the few more or less decent CG artist works that were done under my supervision for the DK Dinosaur Encyclopaedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life I collaborated with Darren Naish in the early 2000’s. And the artist seemed also inspired by my zebra pattern!10943651_1015765971784281_4894518361892717592_n

So here for your enjoyment, a couple more shots from my recently revamped Collecta toy… hopefully there will be more in the future!CollectaB-2CoillectaB-3And all be cause of this… an Oldie that started the trend in the 90’s first published in Extreme Dinosaurs!OldTherizinosaurusB

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